Q&A with Cheryl Levick, part I

Here is the first part of an interview in the state of Georgia State sports with athletics director Cheryl Levick.

I interviewed Levick for about an hour in the conference room of her office.

For those who haven’t met her, Levick is very organized. She used a wipeboard to help with some of her answers so that I could clearly understand some of her points. She’s also very thoughtful, often thinking about her answers before she speaks.

A piece of news that I had heard bits and pieces of, but was able to piece together until Tuesday, is that R. Charles Loudermilk has donated $1 million toward the construction of a new weightlifting facility. There is no site plan or anything yet decided for that gift.

The second part of the Q&A will be posted tomorrow morning. Here’s the first part, and it focuses on football. Part II will focus on basketball, the future of Panthersville, and fundraising.

Some questions and answers have been paraphrased. In some cases, similar topics were asked during different portions of the interview. Those topics have been grouped together.

Q: Some of the fans have wanted Georgia State to be on the FBS level, yesterday. Do you have plans to eventually move Georgia State up to the FBS level?

A: My immediate charge as athletic director is to grow this football program to the point where it’s ready for CAA football next year. That’s what I’m working every day to do, to get this program ready. We have a five-year strategic plan that focuses on getting, not only football, but all of our teams to the top tier of the CAA.

At a point within the strategic plan, if the President says, “Cheryl, let’s look at other options,” I’ll be glad to. But right now I need to stay focused on my charge, which is getting this program to the top tier of the CAA.

Q: But are there any plans, any discussions, anything written down?

A: There are no written plans, no feasibility study. I think it’s smart to say that everyone is watching the realignment of these conferences closely. The landscape of collegiate athletics is changing every single week. As members of the CAA, we have to be mindful and watch carefully what’s happening to make sure that we don’t get left behind somehow.

Q: The CAA, because it is an FCS level conference and operates below most people’s radar, has been very fluid the past few years, with schools dropping off and being added. What is your take on the future of the CAA?

A: CAA football meets as a group and looks at the membership, who’s coming in and who’s coming out. It seems with Old Dominion coming in, us coming in, we are looking at where Villanova is going to end up. At that point in time, we have to make sure that we have a viable, healthy CAA football conference.

Q: How do you do that?

A: The presidents, the athletics directors, meeting with the commissioner, making sure that we know what’s happening. We really lean on the commissioner to make sure we know what’s going on.

Last summer, the presidents joined the athletic directors at their annual meeting for conversations with the football conference. The Presidents were there to talk to have involvement with key topics. One of the key topics is the membership of CAA football, who is in, what are the issues. We are keeping a close watch on it.

Q: Any talk of the entire CAA moving up to the FBS level?

A: No, I’m not sure you can under the new rules.

Q: The other big question is, are there stadium plans?

A: We love the Georgia Dome. It is our home, it is within walking distance. We like that they opened the doors to us, quality service, no weather problems, great working relationship with the Dome. So there are no plans for a stadium. We might look down the road at is there some sort of indoor practice facility that we need to build. But right now, the weather is good down here right now that I’m not sure it’s worth the price tag. Right now we are very happy with playing in the Georgia Dome.

It’s also a huge recruiting advantage. High school players love coming to the Dome, playing in a pro setting, it’s been a real advantage for us.

Q: Was there at any time talk, or feasibility studies done, about building a new stadium?

A: Not to my knowledge.

Q: I’m curious, attendance has been a challenge to some of the other start-up programs, if something more intimate, something smaller would be an advantage. Something where yall could control the revenues.

A: If you look at top-five facility projects, it wouldn’t be a stadium. I’d rather work on improving the attendance in the Georgia Dome and filling that bowl and build a baseball stadium downtown. There are other priorities I’d rather spend on our money on. It’s so expensive to build a football stadium that I’d rather use those funds to build something else because I’m so pleased with the Georgia Dome.

Q: Has the athletic association talked about FBS?

A: No. We haven’t had our first meeting yet. It’s coming up next month. But it’s those big things that they talk about it.

Q: Do you expect that yall will talk about it?

A: I want to talk about land. How do we want to accomplish a master facility plan? Is it the goal of the university to move out of Panthersville? Big philosophical conversations like that.

I think that’s what they want to talk about it.

Q: It seems like this desire do move to FBS doesn’t seem to be one of your primary concerns right now. Is that fair?

A: I really look at, it takes about five years to really get this football program up and running and where we want it go. We are going through growing pains right now, it was a growing pain last Saturday that we experienced. It really does take five years of very strong recruiting, very successful recruiting to get a football program up and running. You have to stay very focused with what you are doing and where you are going. You can’t leapfrog ahead of some these very basic fundamentals. You have to create a culture of good recruiting and a culture of great fanbase and a culture of success in the program before you can move on. You can’t move past these core accomplishments. You have to get them before you can look ahead.

Q: I asked Coach Curry earlier this summer about the contract extension. He said he was going to stick to what he said when yall hired him: he’s going to wait for the five years and then decide what he wants to do. But as you know, a coach that has a contract that doesn’t extend more than a few years out can be hurt in recruiting. Have you and coach Curry talked about a succession plan?

A: We both agreed to wait until after the season and have further discussions about the contract. It’s too distracting during the season.

Q: So you and coach Curry have not talked about a succession plan?

A: No.

Q: Is football paying for itself yet?

A: The financial formula for football, the student fees cover a lot of the scholarships and the operating budget, as planned and voted on. For everything that’s gameday, Georgia Dome rental, to busses for students to come to games, we are trying to balance that through merchandise revenue, ticket revenue, suite sales and game guarantees.

Q: So, is it?

A: Yes. Last year we had $1 million in revenue and spent about $998,000 for all the game-day activities, including the team going out the night before.

Q: What evidence do you see that football is taking hold on campus? Georgia State is becoming a football school, is the best way to put it.

A: First thing I notice is the excitement on campus around gameday. Particularly that first week of school when all the freshmen are in, we have the pep rally and are getting ready for that first game, the campus is vibrant with activities. The kids love their football program. They want a football program, they want a good team. That’s what you see and feel with football.

The television exposure helps spread the word about Georgia State University. The athletic department is growing at a parallel rate as the university and so we are seeing great things on the campus as Pres. Becker leads the growth.

It has to do a lot with football. A lot of the students that come want that total college football experience and part of that experience is football.

We have had success with fundraising as a part of football. In our first year, we had a $1.5 million gift from Pete Petit. This year we’ve had a $1 million gift from R. Charles Loudermilk (earmarked toward a new weightlifting facility), so there are wonderful donors that believe in football, believe in Bill Curry and want to make sure we are successful.

Q: How does that fundraising compare to pre-football?

A: The first year I came here, we had a raised a total of less than $50,000.

– Doug Roberson, AJC. Follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

71 comments Add your comment

GSU

September 28th, 2011
10:17 am

How can we ensure we are not left behind as realignment occurs if there are no contingencies in place or written down to make a move if necessary?

Um, ladies and gentlemen, we will die a slow FCS death!

Doug Roberson

September 28th, 2011
10:20 am

GSU: I don’t understand your concern. Do you think that CAA football is going to disappear. I’m not sure that concern is valid. It is one of the strongest leagues in the FCS level.

Panama

September 28th, 2011
10:21 am

Conference moves are determined by school Presidents and/or AD’s empowered by school President’s. I would have have loved to see an answer as why we have a different model than every other Southern big city downtown school since 1990. Overall a good read Doug. Thanks

Tuscon

September 28th, 2011
10:24 am

Very nice, Doug! It’s good to get a little insight as to what’s going on around our Athletic Department. She seems to have things well in hand.

Jee S. You

September 28th, 2011
10:26 am

Well, nobody is ever going to accuse her of being impulsive!

Panama

September 28th, 2011
10:27 am

CAA Football and the CAA Conference for Olympic Sports are two separate legal entities. We know UMass and Rhody are gone. Hofstra and Northeastern no longer sponsor football. That is 4 northern schools gone in a span of 3 years with another having a tentative FBS invite(Villanova). JMU just spent $90 million on a stadium renovation and expansion (highly unusual at the FCS level). With the northern schools leaving or disbanding this is a problem for Maine and new Hampshire. The travel costs to come to Virginia and Georgia for every away game are prohibitive. So yes we can see fissures in the CAA Football league which is an alliance at best.

Doug Roberson

September 28th, 2011
10:28 am

There’s nothing stopping CAA Football from doing what is happening more frequently on the FBS level: adding schools. Yall, for example.

Ryan

September 28th, 2011
10:29 am

Thanks for this Doug. Some really good info. Nice to see some of the wealthy GSU graduates dipping those deep pockets.

She mentioned a master plan, any talk of when that will be made public?

Jee S. You

September 28th, 2011
10:29 am

….and yes there is a possibility CAA football goes away. It is a loosely-held conglomeration of teams from multiple conferences who could all find probably somewhere else to play.

GSUGrad06

September 28th, 2011
10:30 am

Good read Doug. I’m looking forward to tomorrow talking about Panthersville however I know she probably didn’t give you the full disclosure answer (why should she). Regardless of what she says I know not one single soul can go to Panthersville and say to themselves, “this is where champions play” so they need to drop the plans so we can up our donations and know it’s going to a good cause.

Doug Roberson

September 28th, 2011
10:31 am

The master plan, based upon what she told me and showed me, has more to do with internal workings: fundraising, facilities, etc., than a grand plan to change conferences or anything like that.

some of what you are looking for is in tomorrow’s Q&A.

Doug Roberson

September 28th, 2011
10:37 am

I don’t disagree that the CAA could implode. However, that’s true of just about any conference, especially in these turbulent times. It does seem like the dust is settling somewhat with the Pac-12 saying it’s not going to expand and the SEC saying it’s staying at 13…for now.

The CAA and the Southern Conference have always dealt with “What if” scenarios because of the success they have in football. It seems there are are very few schools that have the financial resources, especially in these troubled times, to cover the costs of moving up to the FBS level.

GSU

September 28th, 2011
10:41 am

@ Doug:

I don’t believe FCS is sustainable in a major market. It sounds as if FBS is the last thing on her mind. Basically, we’re stuck in FCS for the foreseeable future. And if that’s the case, the Dome doesn’t make sense from a atmosphere standpoint.

GSU

September 28th, 2011
10:42 am

Thanks for the write-up Doug! A lot of questions have been answered.

Doug Roberson

September 28th, 2011
10:43 am

That’s one of the reasons why I asked a couple of times about a stadium.

I don’t know if FCS does or doesn’t work in a major market. I’d have to go and find examples. ODU seems to be working. The Hampton Roads market is much bigger than most people know. Schools in the D.C. market seem to work. Villanova seems to work. Of course, there are other examples in both metro and rural areas that have folded.

STATEment

September 28th, 2011
10:53 am

I do not agree that FCS is unsustainable at the dome. I think if we have a winning record and maybe change conferences to play more local schools we could see 30k at the dome every weekend. It’s just a matter of getting our alums more involved and they will do that over time if we win. This time next year we will have had 10k graduates that knew football at Georgia State. Within 5 years we will have had 30k Those are the folks that are going to make this program sustainable if w get them involved now. That and winning.

GSU

September 28th, 2011
11:00 am

STATEment,

I’ll concede to that point. If, (and that’s a big if) we can consistently fill the lower bowl then the dome is fine.

Stateside

September 28th, 2011
11:19 am

Good interview. Thanks for asking the big questions for us, Doug.

And I actually like the answers, for the most part.

NO

September 28th, 2011
11:44 am

FIRE LEVICK! WE NEED TO BE FBS BOUND ASAP!!!

Go Panthers

September 28th, 2011
11:45 am

Thanks Doug great read.

GSUAlum1908

September 28th, 2011
11:49 am

I have to agree- if we aren’t looking at moving up to the “big boy” FBS, we need to find an athletic director who has those intentions.

GSU = Georgia STATE University www.gsu.edu

September 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

Great questions Doug. GSU will not get a single cent from me until a plan is put in place to move towards FBS. My wallet will do my talking.

Panther08

September 28th, 2011
12:10 pm

Good Job Doug. Very Good Questions. My fellow alums…lets slow down with the FBS talk until we become a more stable FCS program. Remember, we need major money to go to the FBS level.

Fightin' Blue Hens

September 28th, 2011
12:27 pm

Your AD has the right approach – focus on winning in FCS first. One (of many) of the reqts for moving to FBS is attendance – the school must average greater than 15k per game over the past two seasons. Only 16 schools in FCS (out of 126 or so) even qualify. Get the program winning and put butts in seats – it starts there. For her to publicly state that the CAA is just a stepping stone for GSU to get to FBS wouldn’t go over well either…

GSU

September 28th, 2011
12:31 pm

We averaged over 15K last year and are currently averaging almost 19K. We are well aware of the rolling 15K requirement.

GSU

September 28th, 2011
12:35 pm

GSU not having a 5 to 7 year plan to go FBS makes about as much sense as us joining the CAA North! What great rivalries with schools such as Maine and whoever else is up there in the North Pole.

Panther

September 28th, 2011
12:47 pm

Raising money to move facilities downtown would move MUCH faster if she stated that ultimately we are aiming to play at the highest level of competition, and that getting there was a matter of how fast things got done.

So what if the commish gets his feathers ruffled. It’s about what’s best for GSU, or maybe I’m off-base. Is he out there vilifying UMASS and Nova? Of course not!

Fightin' Blue Hens

September 28th, 2011
12:50 pm

You haven’t even started playing in the conference and you want out. You were pasted last week by ODU – the mighty Monarchs. A team that has yet to beat a CAA opponent. As Panther08 stated, it’s an expensive proposition and it impacts so much more than just football. But, it sounds like you’ve got it all figured out. Good luck.

GSU

September 28th, 2011
12:52 pm

You’re welcome. Now move on to Delaware’s local paper. There’s nothing else to see here.

GSU

September 28th, 2011
1:01 pm

Oh yeah, we lost to ODU! Let’s stop all talk of raising our football profile until we win the “National Pee-Wee Championship.”. I got a real kick explaining to my family that Southern was No. 1 when my daugher says, “but it says Oklahoma is No. 1 right there.” Yeah, it says that but…I mean its the “other” No. 1.

Anyway, have fun!

STATEment

September 28th, 2011
1:13 pm

Be careful fightin chicken… You almost lost to ODU and you go SPANKED by EWU…I grew up in Delaware and went to U of D undergrad so I know a little bit about the first state. Just because you recently passed the domestic partnership law doesn’t mean you should be coming out on our blog….lol

RidgeRunner

September 28th, 2011
1:25 pm

Dear No. It is not up to Levick to make that decision. She could start the conversation, jump on the band wagon, and lobby for it but it is not her decision.

coachx

September 28th, 2011
1:39 pm

Thanks for the report !

You have to crawl before you walk everyone. I’m a GSU alumini form 2002……….the Houston and Jacksonville St. games proved that a team in year #2 of existence can’t talk about moving up the college football ladder until the foundation is built.

We must be patient. I respect the AD’s answers about the 5 year plan. It will take at least that to build a solid foundation. Coach Curry is the right man for the job too.

GStateBen

September 28th, 2011
1:41 pm

FCS does not work in a major market. There are no Top 30 markets where it works. Since the mid 90s, start ups have no stayed FCS for more than 5 years.

Norfolk is not D.C. It’s more than 180 miles South east. Norfolk’s DMA is #40. They have a captive audience and are doing well with it. Comparing ODU’s success to the seemed lack of Georgia State success is ridiculous.

We will be patient because it makes no sense to plant our flag and say let’s go FBS when we do not have the facilities today. Their are fundraising issues, facilities to build. I’m confident that these plans will be executed but the reason why we have 13 verbal commits to this point is because of our football facilities. There is no reason to make any conference changes or announcements until we figure out what this offseason brings. Also, for those who do not believe we are FBS ready from a financial scenario now, go pull the budget numbers. We also have the athletic and academic facilities to house 114 players. It’s not a matter of can we do it.

As far as CAA Football falling apart, the conference is currently unsure about who is going where and how to align conference games. They have already snubbed their nose at Charlotte because they wanted to be football only. This is a bad, bad sign for a league that used to be a super power. It’s not any longer. It has quality teams but it’s very top heavy and the Northeastern schools and their ADs are already speaking publically. It’s not a stable scenario and it will all play itself out in the next 4-6 months.

coachx

September 28th, 2011
1:42 pm

The Deleware guys actuall makes alot of sense.

I think the blog is flooded with current GSU students who don’t really have a clue………..and I speak from expierence since we were all 21 once.

AgentOrange

September 28th, 2011
1:44 pm

That’s some BS if she isn’t thinking about FBS. Nothing will get the fans fired up like the Delaware Blue Hens coming to town . That interview did nothing to fire me up as a fan. I don’t understand why she didn’t use that interview to get fans excited about GSU. Instead it’s the same lip service that does nothing to excite me. Boring.

That said, thanks for trying Doug.

AgentOrange

September 28th, 2011
1:45 pm

@ Fightin’ Blue Hens

You’re mad because in the state of Delaware everyone cares about pro football. This is Georgia, we are in college football country. You simply don’t understand.

S'paw_99

September 28th, 2011
1:51 pm

There is only one team in GA that has any business in talking about moving up to I-A (FBS) & that is GA SOUTHERN! Before you can move up you need to be able to compete at your own level. Southern was at the highest level of the FCS & looks to headed back in that direction. They also wouldn’t have any problem with the attendance, as long as they have a decent team they’ll easily have 15 K. State wanting to move up reminds me of Michelle Wie wanting to play on the PGA tours, she has no business doing that until she can actually win on the LPGA tour.

Valdosta State has been an excellent D II program, I could see them moving to I-AA.

GSU

September 28th, 2011
1:56 pm

Thank you for the information S’paw_99. You can move on to Savannahnow.com to continue to talk about Southern. This is a GSU blog…nothing else to see here.

Real GSU

September 28th, 2011
2:04 pm

I agree with S’paw_99. GA Southern is ready to move now! We are #1 in the country.

BlogHumor

September 28th, 2011
2:09 pm

GaState trolls have arrived!!!

Itsmeagain

September 28th, 2011
2:12 pm

I don’t mind the FBS questions answers. She stated we need to be mindful we don’t get left behind with this conference realignment and that tells me that they’d re keeping an eye on what’s happening. I think when it comes to it we will be in the right place at the right time. I hope.

Thanks a lot Doug, this is a really good interview, it asks aot of the questions I would ask if I had the opportunity. I’m looking forward to the rest tomorrow.

Itsmeagain

September 28th, 2011
2:13 pm

What is Georgia southern

S'paw_99

September 28th, 2011
2:15 pm

I’m not trying to talk about Southern, just making an intelligent comment that a 2nd yr program has NO business talking about moving up. Become good at your own level first, I agree with pretty much everything the AD said.

Just to clarify, I have a very unique perspective on things, my Dad is a State alum. We have been lifelong Tech fans, but I went to Southern for 2 yrs before transferring to GT.

And I will pull for State over any I-AA program besides Southern.

Goober

September 28th, 2011
2:26 pm

@S’paw_99 intelligent comment — that leaves a lot of room for debate.

S'paw_99

September 28th, 2011
2:48 pm

I’ve got the stats here (from Wikipedia):
UGA has been playing football since 1892 w/ a .646 winning %, 12

Team1

September 28th, 2011
2:50 pm

And exactly what does that have to do with the price of tea in China???

S'paw_99

September 28th, 2011
2:53 pm

I’ve got the stats here (from Wikipedia):
UGA has been playing football since 1892 w/ a .646 winning %, 12 Conference titles, & 2 NCs.

Tech has been playing since 1892 w/ a .597 winning %, 16 Conference titles, & 4 NCs.

UGA does have 2 Heisman trophy winners, but Tech John Heisman (the namesake) actually coached Tech.

Southern: played from 1924 – 1941, & from ‘81 to the present, w/ a .730 winning %, 8 Conference titles, & 6 NCs. They also have 2 Walter Payton (top I-AA offensive player) award winners.

The Tech / UGA one is very debatable, what do you value more winning %, or championships?

itsmeagain

September 28th, 2011
3:33 pm

Answer – It doesn’t matter. What matters is what is going on this season.

GSU Sr.

September 28th, 2011
4:06 pm

The CAA is slumming it these days it appears. Who knew? I also didn’t know a GaSt student was uppity enough to form an insult to a Delaware fan, especially one that obviously has more football insight than a fledgling fan on an AJC blog.